SaaS Founder Interview with Ashley Etling & Chantal Emmanuel, Co-Founders of LimeLoop

Tony Zayas 0:05
Hey everybody, welcome to the tech founders show. We’re back for another episode. Super exciting to always it’s always exciting to talk to tech founders doing things that are just really innovative at the bleeding edge of technology. So joined as usual, a partner in crime, Andy Halko. Andy, you’re looking lighter here this week. How you doing?

Andy Halko 0:26
Good. I’m doing well. Yeah, I know. You know the hermit beard for a while now. It’s gone. So

Tony Zayas 0:35
Yeah, so looks like you’re enjoying your outside pic.

I am. I am having a little picnic out here. So just done some time outside. Nice day.

Andy Halko 0:46
That’s fine. So yeah. Tell me a little bit about who we’re talking to today.

Tony Zayas 0:50
Yeah, so today we have duo joining us. We got co founders Ashley Etling and Chantal Emmanuel from LIMELOOP and LIMELOOP is data driven packaging without the waste. So some really cool stuff that they’re doing with the good work good technology. So let me go ahead and bring them on. Chantal and Ashley. How are you guys doing?

Chantal Emmanuel 1:17
Hey, nice to be here. Thank you for having us.

Tony Zayas 1:19
Yeah, welcome. So I guess to start out, we would just love to hear just a little bit. I just gave one line about what LIMELOOP is we would love to hear from your perspective. You know, what is the solution? And and then we’ll dive in, we’d love to hear where the, you know, the origin story. Where did you guys start out but first overviews?

Chantal Emmanuel 1:43
I think as you might be having some audio so I’ll just kick us off. So I’m we’ve launched three years ago with our first company Toad&CO and really tackling the challenge to fold of reusable packaging. So as we all know, especially post COVID, a lot of online shopping is happening, which means a lot of waste is piling up in our landfill, both in the forms of cardboard boxes, and plastic poly mailers. And so we really saw it no reason why something that really only has a lifespan of about a day or two of the travel time living in our landfills forever. And then when you kind of narrow, pull that out a bit and start to understand more about what’s happening on the logistical side of the supply chain, there are a lot of holes and how we’re getting things from point A to point B. And now with a lot of returned back to point A. And so we saw a really great opportunity to not only rethink the way that we do packaging, but rethink the way we do the full logistical and supply chain system as a whole.

Andy Halko 2:39
Yeah, it’s amazing. And you know, I’ll just say real quickly up top, my head, first thing that comes to my mind is the you know, shipping onion, that I opened the day of this off package, and it’s like box, if that another box, and then probably another box, and then a plastic wrapper, and then you know, something else? And I feel like, you know, just peeling with the arguments ridiculous. It just makes me so frustrated at times.

Chantal Emmanuel 3:04
You likewise. Yeah, you know, we really created the way that we ship packaging with more of a store to store in mind, right? So how do we get 100 T-shirts from the warehouse to the store? It was never really meant to take that same way of doing that for the one t shirt to your home. But we just replicated that same process. And our we’re obviously running into the challenges of what happens when you do that at scale.

Andy Halko 3:26
Yeah, and that I mean, it makes total sense. So you I think you hinted at it a little bit, but how did you get into it? So how did you get here?

Chantal Emmanuel 3:38
Actually, can you hear us?

Ashley Etling 3:39
You know, I can hear you, but I can’t hear Tony and Andy?

Chantal Emmanuel 3:42
Oh? Well, we’re gonna really test our code bounding field. So the question is about kind of how do we get here?

Ashley Etling 3:52
Yeah, so it actually happened way back when my last company I was, we were pretty much developing product and then developing the technology to make it easier for enterprise companies like Target, Walmart, and GE to develop products. So we are shipping a lot of products and I was looking for a sustainable solution couldn’t really find it. My sister just happened to be in a home at class. So how to kind of whip up this idea of a reusable package. So tested, it was working really well. And we transitioned the company to a full enterprise software solution. So it was no longer really shipping products. And so at that point, fast forward 10 years later, as I was doing a lot of research on E commerce these boxes were piling on our front door and I just ironically, opened a box that was collecting dust in our house and it happened to have one of these reusable mailers in it and and serendipitously was talking to Sean tall and so as we got deeper into the problems in foreseeable future of E commerce really started looking at you know, one, if we could, you know, replace reusables all the single use with reusables, then add technology into them, then we could actually provide visibility into the full supply chain in a really unique way that hadn’t really been done before. And with the growth of E commerce, and especially, you know, with what we’re seeing with the pandemic, we’re seeing that more and more that solution becomes, you know, a must have and continue into the future.

Andy Halko 5:24
Can you guys talk a little bit more about the technology side of it? You know, obviously, this is something that’s very physical, you know, where did the technology idea come in? And how did that play into this? I’m really intrigued by, you know, how you say, technology then opens up for, you know, greater visibility into the supply chain. And I know you can translate that whole question, but

Chantal Emmanuel 5:52
know for sure it, it’s what we eat, breathe, and sleep. So happy to. So the technology really tackles two major questions. So one is how do we maximize the number of journeys a single package can make? And two, how do we take advantage of the long life cycle of our packets and learn more about what’s going on in and around them? So to backpedal about the the kind of more of the asset management side of things. So the it takes two fold is both a software and a hardware solution. On the software side, you can think of it as a management tool, you know, where’s my package? When is it coming back, I need to print out new labels, tactical things like that, I want to measure how much environmental impact and saving I’ve had along the way. So basically, everything that you need as a brand, the fulfillment center or the end consumer to really make this system work at scale. And then because our packages last over 200 times, it’s a really great opportunity to learn more about what’s going on inside. And that’s where the hardware center comes in. Of course, you’re not going to put a sensor in a packet that goes into the garbage every single time. There’s, there’s no ROI in that. So what we love about what we’re doing is sustainability not become not only is like a nice to have, but it’s a must have and actually becomes a value add to that. And so about that environmental savings are the impact using the environment inside the package, we’re looking at the temperature, so really think of great applications for groceries, pharmaceuticals, to any temperature sensitive packaging, to be able to put that in there and know what the temperature is at any given time, monitoring the open rate. So it’s a really great opportunity for on both the marketing side, but of course, the security side. So is your package being tampered with before it gets to you. When is really the best time to be delivered. So Andy might get a pair of jeans on Monday. But on average, we’re seeing he’s not opening until Saturday, maybe that’s the right day to deliver all of his things to him, because he’s most likely to actually interact with it inside. And of course, that they’re excited. That is the location. So where is my package is the number one question people call up customer service for when they make an order online. So apply that out to the most of customer service hours that are being spent answering that question, and then the consumers customer side? How much frustration is something you’re trying to figure out where your package is? Why not give people that information, let them arm themselves to make decisions based off of that.

Andy Halko 7:57
So it sounds like you were able to package a lot of or pack in a lot of technology into these packages. It How is that done? And you know, and how did you like, you know, create a product that has all of this tech in it that gets, you know, moved around so much.

Chantal Emmanuel 8:15
Yeah, and the great thing about the technology, well, especially in a in a pre circuit sorted world is you know, they’re generally really easy to find off the self sensor technology that we’ve combined in a unique way, and are leveraging in a unique way through our packaging. So the technology itself is not anything super complicated. We’re just able to take simple sensors, and use them in a way that hasn’t been used before to arm people with really great knowledge and information and data.

Andy Halko 8:44
Very cool. Actually, any luck hearing us? Doesn’t seem like

Chantal Emmanuel 8:49
I’m gonna say that now. We’re kind of just running through all the sensor technology and why and how we’re leveraging it right now.

Andy Halko 8:58
I’m really, and maybe this could be passed along to Ashley, which would be great is I’m interested in, you know, how do you change the mindset and habits of folks, both the companies that you need to convince the change the way that they handle their supply chain and do things but then also consumers?

Chantal Emmanuel 9:17
Yeah, so the question is around the consumer behavior change on both the consumer side and the brands and helping them kind of change the way that they’re, they’re looking and doing things?

Ashley Etling 9:26
Yeah, it’s a great question. And so we do it multiple ways. So we provide different kinds of programs. And those were, you know, at first a pretty, you know, self service kind of approach. And now we’re adding layers of technology to that to really automate it. So kind of things shopify integrations, plug in line loop, and then you can really, you know, optimize these programs. So one of those programs, for example, is having an opt in program. So at the end of checkout, when they’re going to shop for their Levi’s jeans, they could opt into a line loop reusable package. And from there, they’re already educated on the process. And then when you receive a notification that your package was just dropped off, in that email, it also says, Hey, there’s this like blue package. And when you drop it off at USPS, you are adding XYZ of impact. And then through that we’re continuing to, you know, evolve different programs that lead into more gamification, communication and continuing to add layers of technology. But then also, just even when you receive that package, there’ll be, you know, a little saying in there that remind you to return this package and continues to go through the cycle.

Chantal Emmanuel 10:37
Yeah, and just to add on the consumer side, we always like to remind people that yes, it’s a behavior change. But for anyone who spends the day before garbage day breaking down cardboard boxes, you know, you’re already spending time managing the packaging, until this is actually a much more delightful experience in sending that back via your your at home mailbox or the blue pen near you.

Andy Halko 10:56
Yeah, that that doing the packaging can turn into a whole day effort sometimes, when you actually, you know, 30 boxes that end up piling up.

Chantal Emmanuel 11:07
Exactly.

Tony Zayas 11:09
So I’d like to hear a little bit more about the target audiences, as Shopify has been, you know, E commerce businesses that you guys have targeted. Is that a big channel for you? What are the others? You know, what are you finding success with?

Ashley Etling 11:27
Yeah, I can hear you, Tony. So that’s great. Okay. Sorry, Andy. Yeah, it’s a great question. So we really went into it to test let’s test the reusable packages within the whole infrastructure, let’s test logistics, and then what kind of data would really add value to our customers. So to start that, I kind of have an easy, relatively easy, if you can call it that point of entry, we said, let’s start with a peril, because we can create a software package that can move through the stream at a pretty, you know, lightweight load, to be able to really test and understand. And then from there, we’ve been able to take a lot of those learnings and scale them amongst multiple industries, and then multiple brands and from small brands all the way to the largest retailers in the world. And so by starting, just starting with that basic foundation, then we are continued to be able to really scale with all those infrastructures, you know how those reusable packages move within the system, how logistics work for carriers for three PLS, and then also within that retail infrastructure in itself, and then also continuing to build on that data and predictive analytics to really be able to guide brands to really increase that double bottom line.

Tony Zayas 12:46
Curious if you’ve done any targeting of, you know, larger companies that have these big pushes for sustainability? I know that’s been a, you know, a big push in many industries, you know, in, in a lot of larger organizations. Has that been a focus for you as well?

Ashley Etling 13:05
Yeah, we definitely hear often. What about Patagonia? And so what actually turned out to be really beautiful about the solution that most companies who are understanding the future of E commerce, not only from a supply chain perspective, but also the customer, and understanding what Millennials are looking for, what Gen Z is looking for, it has become so much more open than the Patagonia is on the totem coasts of the world to most every company, looking at how they really become a part of this larger impact. But then also just, you know, think about during the pandemic, and not being able to find your toilet paper, all the brands are discovering deeper that there’s deeper supply chain issues and visibility. And by being able to add these technology layers, and we can add that new unique way, they’re also able to add a better experience for their customer beyond just the sustainability side of it well, so just really increasing that experience is something we’ve been focused on.

Tony Zayas 14:04
It’s great. That’s mentioned a couple of times, you know, the impact of the pandemic, I would like to hear, you know, what did that do to your business and how to change things and maybe help certain things evolve faster in other directions?

Ashley Etling 14:22
Yeah, definitely happen. You know, I would say on the technology side, so I’ll let Chantal, you know, definitely give you a little more insight into that. But all in all, it has opened up supply chain and the weaknesses, but also the opportunities.

Chantal Emmanuel 14:35
Yeah, so I think that on the bigger scale, it really reiterated a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about for a while. And I think the biggest thing on the technology side, you know, when we first started talking about the company three years ago, you know, when your mental model is a cardboard box, it almost feels like over engineering to talk about software and sensors and all these other things that we’re talking about reinventing the box with and I would say that that conversation drastically shifted with COVID because of that, as I mentioned, as I mentioned, all the holes we’re seeing in supply chain and loss packaging, the increase of reverse logistics. So if you think about it, pre pandemic, you’re going to the store, you’re trying on three pairs of jeans of different sizes and walking up the store with the one that fits. Today, a lot of people are ordering three to four different pairs of jeans, and then sending back the ones that don’t fit. So now all of a sudden, these companies are having these huge challenges with reverse logistics, and where’s my packaging? And when is that coming back and putting that back into stock? And those are all technology based problems and new technology base to loosen. So, I would say the biggest thing is that, whether it’s around the environmental side of things, and what we were talking about in terms of the waste accumulating, and supply chain fixes, and just a lot of those conversations went from us kind of knocking on doors to people knocking on our door saying like, we need help with this.

Andy Halko 15:49
Yeah, you know, one of the interesting things I heard not even that long ago is that, like 50% of what you return to Amazon just go straight to a landfill. You know, is that something that you know, your solution impacts at all, because when I hear that, it makes me crazy.

Chantal Emmanuel 16:07
Yeah, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Amazon and most of the companies the world, they’re just no idea of what’s coming back when it’s coming back in what shape it’s coming back in. And so something as simple as, as I mentioned before, being able to have that open rate monitor of knowing whether the package has been opened at all, or is it something that came to your doorstep and you happen to me all the time, you order and you think you really need and then it comes or you’ve already gone and bought it from the stores, you never actually open that box. And there’s a lot of people who do that. But if Amazon and the other companies don’t know that that’s happened, they’re having to send that to a third party solution to then either go through and maybe put it back on the shelf. But in the end more often than not the cases that is ending up in the landfill. So as much as we can arm these brands with information about what’s happening to that packet, and therefore that product, the better decisions they can make about whether or not to divert that back to the store to put it back on the shelf to the TJ Maxx and the other liquidators of the world to organizations to donate it to. There’s all these other options that they can do based on knowing what’s going on with that product.

Andy Halko 17:06
Yeah, that’s, yeah, I think that’s a big impact. Just the shift a little bit, I’m always curious about how organizations take an idea, and especially when it’s a physical product, you know, physical piece, and also software, how do you turn that into something real? You know, what was the process? Was it going out and needing the research the technology and then build the software? What, you know, how did you actually physically get from this idea to to a true solution?

Chantal Emmanuel 17:41
Yeah, so actually, the question is, how do we get from the idea of LIMELOOP to the to solution and kind of bringing that all together from packet to software. So I can kick us off with the software side of things and kind of the holistic view that we have, which is really breaking down this kind of big behemoth of a problem into the different parts and really being thoughtful and focus on how we tackle it, you know, the the goal was to be the end to end solution. But we really had to figure out what our way in was, and then how we can expand from there. So we started small, we started with just the reusable packaging, you could in 2017 2018, you can sign up with lime loop and rent reusable packaging from us and leverage that instead of your box or your poly mailer to ship out your products and have those sent back. So there was there was no platform, the very beginning and no hardware sensor. And in the backend, of course, we were building out those things. So we just really figured out our our lowest barrier of entry, started working with really great brands who were both sustainably focused, but also really wanted to tap into the more technology based solutions as we roll those out, and then grew incrementally with that.

Ashley Etling 18:46
Yeah, and then I’d say from there, as we continue to build out that infrastructure and add the technology to the reasonable packaging to continue to make it smarter, we continue to look at connectivity. So how do you continue to grow connectivity so that you can actually truly understand where this package is, at all points of the cycle. And then as we look into kind of that next frontier over the next 10 15 years, is what does the future of delivery really look like? Especially in urban environments. You know, we have been talking about drones, we’ve been talking about robots, but as policy shift as technology becomes more readily available, we look at them with that connectivity, how do we actually get to a point to we can remove packaging all together, and actually really power the whole infrastructure of how we move packages around how you receive your packages. You know, before the pandemic we were at E commerce is 15% of retail. You know, we’re probably looking at numbers about 30% at this point. And so we’re still at the really early infancy of how we send and receive goods to people’s homes. And so we were really excited about becoming a Chantal said that full solution and full visibility visibility solution for how we actually move products through that supply chain. So all in all, there’s never a dull moment office.

Tony Zayas 20:19
I would, that’s fantastic. And we appreciate you guys sharing that with us. Um, I would love to hear a little bit about dynamic between the two of you and the roles that you each play as co founders.

Ashley Etling 20:34
Yeah. So Chantal was our Lead Engineer at my last software company. And she was, you know, typically we went through this long hiring process called references, you’re pretty classic kind of long hiring. And Chantel came in for interview, probably an hour. And we called her an hour later, and probably one of the best hires I’ve ever made and best decision as a founder. And we’ve been working together for over 10 years. So we really have this dynamic of trusting each other, knowing when to divide and conquer, but then also knowing when to bring each other in to really you know, collaborate hash through something, get to a quick decision and continue to move the forward the company forward. And with that, kind of a no, you know, BS mentality, no politics, we’ve really been able to go full steam ahead, build an incredible team and culture around that kind of good energy that we’ve really built and working together. And then, as far as you know, roles go and you know, we do date day, definitely Chan talks to the table with, you know, tech, green, and constantly looking at how we scale with technology. And you know, my background more in logistics and supply chain, but a love for technology and scale. So, you know, constantly coming to Chantal, well, I really want to scale this, how can we add layers of technology around that. And then, you know, her and I just a love for building business and solving big problems continues then to bring us together in this collaboration that, you know, really, you know, created a beautiful solution, but also great company.

Chantal Emmanuel 22:13
Yeah, it’s interesting, I feel like people reach out to me, especially being a technical co founder be like, how do you find your co founder and how, especially technical co founder, and it’s like, I can’t really relate with the struggles because because of the fact that Ashley and I were able to work together. And now being co founders, I feel like it was a really great opportunity to see her from from both sides, right as first an employee of her as a founder now as a co founder. And so it was a really easy decision for me to make. And as you mentioned, it’s it’s really beautiful, ying and yang of like being really shared on the vision and sharing that kind of bigger picture for the company. But having unique ways of coming about it that like really helps to avoid that groupthink that I think sometimes you can have, if you work with someone who’s too similar to you, we’re able to come at problems from different sides and kind of be that other voice and making those bigger decisions.

Andy Halko 23:00
How do you drive that vision in the organization? How have you defined it? And then how do you you know, not only stay on the same page with each other, but then help really, you know, push it into the organization? So everybody’s aligned?

Chantal Emmanuel 23:18
Yeah, it’s been it’s been a trial and error for sure. And I think we’ve kind of narrowed it down on you know, finding that right balance between you know, near future KPIs and goals and kind of checking in on how that up levels and all while being nimble and recognizing that those both of those things can change depending on kind of what’s happening with customers in the market and the world as as as we see it. Because what could have very different plans from what we think is, is happening and so in a more tactical look, we have our KPIs our monthly or yearly we have it planned out for pretty far into the future and we check in

Andy Halko 24:00
it looks like we get a freeze here.

Chantal Emmanuel 24:05
pretty regularly hear you so I’m gonna pee chatting. You’ll see. There we go. So yeah, team, we’re collaborate there all the time. A lot of you know how free one is, have the days also had hands and the different kind of work you went along at any given time.

Ashley Etling 24:25
I think to sum up what Chantal is saying is we love data. But we also know that data is not always true. And it’s what you take that data to tell the story to get us to where we need to go to achieve that bigger vision. So we’re constantly pulling data, creating a story, but then also, you know, really, you know, re collaborating on how we actually take that and move the company forward.

Tony Zayas 24:50
Ashley, what does the rest of the organization look like? What is the team makeup and tell us a bit about that if

Ashley Etling 24:56
it’s been primarily tech focused, the weight of the team. And that’s just really been our focus, you know, the last year and a half, two years and you know, really from the very beginning. And so we are in most of our inbound has been very organic. So we haven’t had to do any marketing. But we definitely have set that foundation feel very confident on scale. And now we’re starting to put money behind that, which also means building out that full team to really get the marketing team going and continue to scale the company. And then the, you know, second part is really as we get deeper into these larger partnerships, that is a massive infrastructure change. That means how we clean the reusable packages, how we care and maintain the technology. And then also, where do we store them? Where do they go? How do they move through this system? So we’re building out the operations team who can strategically think how can we do it today? And how can we continue to optimize, you know, over in the future, so we’re hiring right now for VP operations, going to give a little plug. And then we’re also hiring on the marketing and sales team, as well as Chantel also continues to build out on the technology. But when we think about technology, it’s definitely twofold. We have the hardware, and we have the software. But as we continue to gain more data, we also build out the data infrastructure and data scientists as well.

I’d like to hear a little bit about the the way you define the culture at LIMELOOP. And how you guys have gone about how intentional you’ve been with that. And how do you drive that forward?

Yeah, and I think collaboration is one of the biggest ones, because we are most main mentality is solving big problems with transparency. And to be able to solve big problems with transparency, you have to bring multidisciplinary teams together to work together in a really effective way. And I think then from there, you have to set you know what that culture is to work effectively together, especially in a remote world, where we continue, do not be in a room together every day yet. So set up tools and time to be able to have some of that time to actually really work together through some of these bigger problems.

Chantal Emmanuel 27:22
And I think it’s really about kind of being intentional about it. You know, we’re a relatively small team. And I think it’s, it’s obviously a lot easier to define culture when there’s only a handful of folks. And so it’s kind of about how do we put into place and define those things today, when we have the bandwidth to do it, because of the smaller team to make sure that we’re replicating that as we grow bigger. And then I would say it’s also about expanding beyond just a team. And it also incorporates the brands that we’re working with, and the way that we produce our products, and the ethical and sustainability focus that we have around that. And so thinking beyond just the people, but also the holistic picture of who we are as a company who we want to be in the next 10 15 years as well.

Ashley Etling 28:02
Yeah, something that Chantal and I continue to be interested in and want to continue to drive is this stigma that’s associated with sustainability, that can’t be profitable. And so as we continue to spearhead the company, really looking at truly defining that double bottom line and how, you know, doing something that makes a positive impact, and also make an impact on your p&l in a really, really impactful way as well. And so as we develop culture, but also those external for friends continue to look at how can we be leaders in that and also be actual a true example of how the two really married together?

Tony Zayas 28:44
How do you how do you attract people who are, you know, who buy into that concept, and that your vision and your mission? Because you guys are doing something that’s multifaceted. There’s a lot going on here, there’s the sustainability aspect related to the packaging, but then there’s also really cool tech stuff with the location and data that’s involved. I would love to hear a little bit about what you guys look for in employees when you’re, you know, in the hiring process.

Ashley Etling 29:14
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, the answer your first question, we’ve been really fortunate that I think a lot of folks have stepped back and looked out what they want to do in the future, what legacy they really want to leave. I think the pandemic gave some folks a lot of time to say, Okay, here’s my skills, how how do I want to take them and move forward in the future? And as you said, that’s, you know, three prong you know, that’s if you’re really interested in supply chain logistics, then yes, we are definitely looking at that interest. You have a love for technology, but also really understand supply chain, that’s incredible, but even just having a great passion for sustainability and having that as a background. So while we look at that from a resume perspective, we also really get deep into conversations with potential hires, we have them give them a lot of data and ask them what they would do with it. So really giving them you know, real life kind of scenarios so that we can better understand how they work day in day out. Because at the an early stage startup, you know, there’s things that go out of the scope, we’re still wearing a lot of hats, so someone who can, you know, come to the table with solutions, but also be interested in helping out even if that means, you know, we have to sweep the floors that day, it’s just, it’s, it’s fully scoped. And that will shift over time. But it, you know, is where we are today, and something we definitely look for.

Andy Halko 30:41
One thing I think, you know, founders are always thinking about is, you know, how do they fuel growth? And I’m curious, from your perspective, you know, that MVP, bootstrapping, raising capital, you know, getting to a point of having revenue to grow. What How did you feel from like, the very beginning to now? How is that changing for you?

Chantal Emmanuel 31:06
Yeah, so the question is how around how we feel the grilled from kind of starting out smaller three years ago, to where we are to now today in terms of kind of raising revenue, building out the product and roadmap and everything. And kind of what I was meant to before lowered entry into this field, while obviously, you know, part of your, is gonna just constantly fundraising. And so that was always our to do list given week or day and kind of building on that. And we were really lucky that, you know, we will note, the role in cap, as we found really great investors, kind of just kind of incremental fuel our growth in terms of mix, as that money rolled, put it in.

Ashley Etling 32:04
You cut out a little bit, chunk off the gist. But all in all, is it’s similar to a map, you can create as many roadmaps as you as you can. But there are always twists and turns, you sometimes make a wrong turn. But I think always coming back to those certain milestones to that bigger vision brings everything back together. But I think the biggest key within that is knowing that, yes, you have this roadmap by constantly listening to your customers, your potential customers. So you continue to truly build a product that’s needed within the industry, you may think you understand what it is that everyone needs, and you set out this really long roadmap. But what truly will add value to the industry, but also the customer at hand and potential customers is constantly listening and developing the products in a way that that will really add that value. I think one of the things that we watched really closely was, you know, a lot of folks in SMB, and they continue to come as a Shopify user and platform. So continuing to see that, you know, year over year, that gave us that very clear signal, okay, we need to shift a little and add these new layers of integrations and technologies that really help for streamline onboarding, for reuse within a Shopify kind of scenario. So by listening and just watching data of what and collecting that of what our customers are doing, what platforms they’re using, how they’re growing, it allows us to add value that they can easily use immediately.

Tony Zayas 33:47
So looks like Chantal dropped off, hopefully,

Ashley Etling 33:50
She’ll she’ll be back. Yeah. Temporarily.

Tony Zayas 33:53
Yeah, no. So we’ll keep the conversation going. You know, you mentioned that, you know, your growth to this point has, it’s happened organically. And you guys are looking to shift, you know, to grow the marketing team and the focus. What does that look like, as you guys are looking to scale up? What’s the approach that you’re taking to that? And what can you share? There some have been some learning lessons and in that direction,

Ashley Etling 34:19
yeah, I mean, from a very tactical perspective, we outlined everything that we were doing still manually, and then mapped out a plan to what makes the most sense to continue to automate everything that we were doing manually, but then also look at, you know, all that content, all that intake, we had developed of questions, what are concerns? What are any kind of barriers, and being able to not only develop technology, but then also assets and tools and content to really help the user move through that journey? So we’re taking all of that and putting layers so that someone can easily come on to the website and move through it a really lovely flow to get them to a point to where they actually get the product that they need. But then once they had that product also be able to really deliver on it and add value to their current customer. So we look at it from the full stream, not just from Yes, let’s convert, but then let’s also, you know, make sure that once we are working with these incredible folks that we can continue to add value and make sure that their reuse program is effective as possible.

Tony Zayas 35:30
He talked about it a little bit, you know, earlier in getting that feedback from, you know, your users, what does some sound the two of us now? Then there were two, right? Yeah, apologize, everybody. For all the issues that we’re having here today. It’s one of those days. But hopefully we can get to keep this going. Looks like I guess the question. Hey, Andy, welcome back. Let’s see if Ashley can hear you now.

Andy Halko 36:01
Ashley, can you hear me?

Ashley Etling 36:02
I can hear you.

Andy Halko 36:03
There we go. That was that makes it better?

Tony Zayas 36:08
Um, no, I was just gonna ask, you know, how do you what’s the process for collecting that user feedback. So that you can use it and parlay it into things like your marketing, your positioning, roadmap, so on and so forth?

Ashley Etling 36:23
Yeah, I mean, pretty manual at first, you know, intake form, it goes out to an email to the right person to respond, but then also goes into a more of a spreadsheet to be able to collect that data. So I’m always in the frame of mind, don’t invest too much into something, until you really understand what you’re doing what you need to collect, why you’re collecting it. And then start putting layers of technology around it and make it really sophisticated to pull it into dashboards, to be able to really quickly share that with your internal team, that your external team and be able to understand it at a high level to guide you to make those next steps and those next decisions. But you know, always start really scrappy, and then build build upon it allows you to move really fast, but then invest in what really needs to be invested in that will add value.

Andy Halko 37:17
What kind of challenges have you run into, as you’ve, you know, had to build out and scale the business? Like, what were some of the barriers that you ran into that, that were big problems that you had to solve as a founder?

Ashley Etling 37:29
Yeah, I have this great longtime mentor. And I always thought if I could convince him on this idea, because he’s been in the industry for probably way too long, he’d say that this is definitely a solvable solution. And so I spent probably six months, you know, looking at every part of the industry already understanding a lot of it, working through it, and truly understanding what these brands and retailers were looking for. But then also what the big barriers were and why it hadn’t moved quicker before. And so we knew going into this, that there were going to be problems, but they were all solvable. And once you solve them, that’s where you start to see that large scale and really incredible solution. That to me was worth, you know, really going after. And I think, you know, we think about it, just from a standpoint, we’re working with four different stakeholders, we’re working with retailers we’re working with their consumers are working with 3d Pls and carriers. So just even if you think about the infrastructure of three PLs and carriers, that’s 150 year old industry that was all built around brick and mortar. And we have really quickly moved to an E commerce infrastructure. But a lot hasn’t been done on the back end of supply chain. So we knew that those workflows were stuck in a certain position. So we would have to come in at one with understanding and curiosity to with grace on how we start to add these layers of technology, and then really approach it with a technology forward to be able to solve it at a larger scale. So for example, one thing that we thought we wouldn’t even really run into within three pls is actually developing are printing out multiple return labels, one return one label that goes for the package to you to receive it, and then another label for you to be able to flip it to send it back empty, and then maybe another label if you have a return. So in a simple form, you know, you could just scan one label, and it would go wherever direction you’d want. But, you know, warehouse management systems hadn’t caught up to E commerce in all three PL systems. So it was something from the very beginning. That one we needed to figure out how to really need to figure out from a tracking perspective. And so that’s really guided us not only where we are today and solving that in a very quick way from that infrastructure, but also developing the sensor technology in a way to where we can make that more sophisticated and kind of jump through some of the loops of the infrastructure that’s been set for probably way too long.

Andy Halko 40:01
So, you know, I think that’s a great thing for other founders that they get into a business where, in some ways, they’re very affected by other parties. And you talked about these four different groups, you know, and even in the three PLs, like you said, they’re their technology, and maybe mindset is so far behind, you know, how do you how do you think the best way to approach that is, if you’re building a business? Is these you know, outside forces that are very impactful to your business that maybe you don’t have as much control over as you wish?

Ashley Etling 40:35
Yeah, I think a lot of curiosity, but to be able to be in a room where you can even ask questions, it’s really understanding that whole ecosystem. So who are the people that would make the more sense to ask those questions to, and then once you identify those people who within your network can make that really warm introduction, so you can actually just have those real conversations like, Hey, I’m building this thing, what do you think the barriers are going to be? What are your where’s your interests lie? What are your biggest problems today? You know, we went to one of the largest retailers in the world and said, Look, what are your must haves? What do you need today, and it just happened to reflect the same exact roadmap that we had developed. So by having that curiosity, by having that conversation, it validated what we were working on, but also has led to a really incredible partnership for us. So I say definitely map out your questions, map out what you need to understand, know, those stakeholders within those companies, and then just start to chip away with it, it won’t happen overnight, especially if they’re big corporations, like the UPS DHL of the world. But just by making those relationships, they continue to get deeper and allow you to not only understand the industry, but eventually, you know, the to some really great foundational kind of partnerships just because you are thoughtful, and understand the organization and what their true objectives and needs are for the future.

Andy Halko 42:02
You mentioned mentorship, and that has been a common thread on our show. And so, you know, going past, like mentors are good. You know, how did you find the right mentors? And how do you leverage them to be really impactful for you and your organization?

Ashley Etling 42:22
Yeah, I would say intention, and then from that, with the intention, you know, grew first company and lived in the Bay Area for 15 years. So just through events, through other folks asking, just really asking people for what I need it, you know, everyone’s pretty willing to help and open up their doors and connect you. So if I would say first, just ask ask for what you need asked for you won and someone doesn’t want to help you, then they’re probably not the right person anyway, that you really want to interact with. And then from the intentional perspective, once you have that network, then you know, for me, I said, Look, I really want to meet a CEO, who has who has built a really rich company from a cultural perspective, but also from an environmental perspective, but also understand supply chain. And so I looked within that network and then just kept calling people or, you know, texting, whatever, just saying, Hey, would you mind introducing me to this person and my longtime mentor, I just kept bugging that one person. And then we finally connected and we chatted, you know, probably once a week, and happen really, for the last five years. To the point we said, Wait, has it really been five years, I just you know, there’s those people that you really kind of connect and hit it off with, you know, your personal values, align your professional values align, and it’s just, it’s always great to have that person when you’re just in the two o’clock in the morning kind of scenario. Don’t call him at two in the morning. But you know, you can call them the next morning and saying, Hey, what do you think about this, or give him a quick text. You know, we even used some of those mentors today to interview some of our potential candidates, where we’re making, you know, an executive, you know, role decision, and you are in a director role up to C suite. And they’ve been just great from, you know, understanding us understanding our culture, all the way to understanding the company to just being able to give really blunt intentional feedback. So yes, I definitely mentors are incredible. Be cautious of how many you have, but definitely incorporate them into how you grow the company.

Chantal Emmanuel 44:30
And I just had in sorry, for it wouldn’t be a live event without technically Thank you definitely would not be a live event without technical difficulties. But the only thing I would add to that is really kind of think about how you want to or how you’ve been approached to be a mentor in the past. And so for me, I know, one of my pet peeves is getting those cold messages on LinkedIn. It’s just like, hey, you’re a founder, can we grab coffee? It’s just like, I don’t I don’t really know what to do with that as opposed to like, Hey, I noticed that you work in x space and I’m working through y problem. Do you mind if I pick your rant about how to solve this thing. And so just getting really specific about the ask and the need, recognizing that we obviously all have a lot on our plate right now. But if there’s a way that I can specifically help you, I’m happy to do so then kind of turning that back on its head when I need help for something to be kind of a similar kind of mentality of being respectful in the time and being direct in the ass that that would be helpful.

Andy Halko 45:21
And along these lines, I want to ask you guys as being female founders and minority, how does that play into mentorship? The ecosystem? You know, what can you tell other founders that maybe are in, you know, from your same perspective, how they need to navigate scaling a business?

Ashley Etling 45:46
Yeah, I mean, I think I always say, you know, look at it as leadership first. So you’re setting out to be an excellent leader, and just continuing to be representative in that note, but then also, being a part of the conversation is critical to making a, you know, pass forward so that we do look at it as we’re all just leaders, and we’re all just building businesses. And so you know, at first I really kind of shied away from actually being invited to speak as a female founder, and but found that by doing that I’m actually not making a difference, or pushing the industry forward to recognize that we’re all equal sitting at the table. And it’s what the conversation and how you act on that conversation is what’s actually really powerful. So I think the more we can continue to push that forward, you know, the more we’ll see a difference in how we all build companies collaboratively and in a multidisciplinary kind of approach. But I know Chantal has a great perspective on this. Well, of course, it’s something we we talk about often, but also, you know, talk more about how do we continue to be good leaders in the space.

Chantal Emmanuel 46:54
Exactly, I would say definitely in the beginning is probably something that weighed heavy on my mind, but it’s also you have that realization was like, I can’t and don’t want to change anything about me. So it’s really about really finding the folks that that are the best people to work with. And what that has led us to is a cap table of investors and advisors and mentors who we know see us for who we are, and for the hard work that we’re putting two together and the company we’re building, until it’s really written that and one of the things actually used to mention, you know, if every, every no equals one, yes, maybe for us every 200 nos equals one. Yes, and but it doesn’t really change what we have to do, right, we have to keep hitting the ground, we have to keep waking up excited about where we’re doing what we’re building. And it might just mean that we’re having to be scrappier about how we do that, which in the long run could help us build an even stronger company. So it’s really about not focusing on those differences, but a using them as an asset and be recognizing that it is not our problem that females don’t, or have a harder time raising money. It’s the folks who are giving an investing the money that have the problem. So we get to focus on our big problems that we’re solving that we talked about, because we have enough to handle with that, and can’t really focus on kind of what they’re thinking when we walk into a room.

Andy Halko 48:07
Yeah, we’ve had a lot of female founders on our show, and that has been a common thread is the more difficulty in investment. You know, what do you think the opportunity is in the, you know, startup space and investing, for us to embrace female founders and folks that don’t, you know, look like me, probably at the end of the day, more in the marketplace?

Ashley Etling 48:36
Well, I mean, the percentages are still low, but we’re starting to see more money be invested in female founders just because they’re building smart, great companies. And as that money continues to go into those circles, that money is being reinvested back into minorities and female founders. So my hope, and my goal is you’ll continue to see and equalisation of folks sitting at the table sitting at board rooms. And hopefully we continue to awareness that, you know, people do realize that it does create a great culture and a great development of how we build. And so of course, money always talks. So if we can get more money into the system first, and then continue to uplevel, just great, incredible founders will continue to see a development of true solutions coming together from companies that will make and break the, you know, the future of our economy in the US, but also globally as well.

Chantal Emmanuel 49:36
Yeah, and I would, the only thing I would add to that is like just making sure that we’re having these conversations across the board and not putting the onus on minorities and women to solve the problem that we only did not create but are actually having to face and so this making sure that these conversations are had with those both on both sides of the fence, because obviously we have a lot of opinions about it, going through it, but I think the real change comes from when everyone at the table is having In these conversations in a meaningful way,

Andy Halko 50:04
that’s great.

Tony Zayas 50:06
All right, with a few minutes left here, I want to shift gears once again, I would love to hear a bit about the plans for the future for LIMELOOP. And specifically, knowing that you guys are in a space, you’re in logistics, technology, it’s all these fast, evolving, moving, changing parts. And as you said, you’re trying to be nimble, you’re listening to the feedback of your customers, how do you plan for that? And then what does the next 12 months look like for you guys?

Ashley Etling 50:37
Yeah, I mean, I think we’re working towards that big vision of adding visibility into the full supply chain. And as Chantal mentioned before, that is a large task to take on. So we are continuing to really, you know, pull that into chunks. So within the next year, just from a reasonable package standpoint, we went into it this idea of let’s keep the reasonable packages agnostic, so that they can move really easily through the full stream. But as we continue to listen to our customers, they still love a branded experience for their consumer. So we’re working on a lot of new kind of cool systems for automation, for customization at scale. So that’s something you could keep an eye out. But the sensors knowledge on, I’ll tell you more is there, we’re also really excited to continue to release to all companies, we’ve been in piloting stages, with some of the largest customers in the world, but also, you know, small to medium sized brands. And so being able to release that technology and those sensors, with kind of a data, predictive analytic infrastructure, something we’re really heads down working on this year as well.

Chantal Emmanuel 51:48
Yeah, so to add on the technology side, so it’s kind of a combination of, you know, recognizing where it makes sense for us to double down on building custom apps within our own network versus kind of meeting people where they are. And so for us, that looks like a lot of the native Shopify integration. So if a lot of our small medium businesses are already using Shopify for their e commerce needs, it makes more sense for us to build in our assets and our features into that platform. Whereas our enterprise customers already have their own digital platform. So most of our focus is around building up the SDK. So for them to be able to leverage the data that we’re collecting for them in a meaningful way and ensure that up to their end consumers, and then on, on the center side, you know, as a technologist, it’s a really exciting time to be doing, we’re doing like, we literally would not have been able to build a technology that we’re building right now, five years ago, the battery life wouldn’t have been there, the technology around the sensors would not have been small and lightweight enough to make sense to ship around at the scale that we’re shipping and to build out at the scale that we’re building. And that changing everyday to so we would have this conversation this time next year, our sensors are probably take on a very different form and have very different capabilities just based on what people are working on in the IOT space right now. So it allows us to, again, going back to the idea of having this bigger business how where we want to get to, and then leveraging the available technology that we have right now to incrementally get there.

Andy Halko 53:10
You talked about Shopify and enterprise, you know, you know, integrating with Shopify SDKs. But have you had to have the conversation of who is our best target audience? And where do we focus our time and product building and marketing? Because I think that’s a challenge a lot of founders have is, yeah, big vision, limited time and money. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Ashley Etling 53:37
Yeah. So we have that conversation daily. So it’s something that we went into it with a focus on really high growth for the next five years with SMB. But with enterprise, you know, really just knocking at our door asking for a solution that goes back to just listening to the customer, the environment, that industry. But with that, what we started to really realize, by investing in enterprise, they build out the infrastructure that feeds into SMB, to make it really easy for them to be able to plug into a reuse program. So by bringing the full market share of SMB and enterprise together, they work really beautifully together for our company. But for other companies, I usually say simplify and focus. And so that’s why we talk about a daily because it’s definitely been my mantra. And so I say, wait, wait, are we simplified in focus? So we look at simplifying and focus in a different way we say yes, from externally, we are working with SMB to enterprise. But internally, we focus it in a really strategic way to make sure that all of our resources, all of our team is focused so that we can still be scrappy and scale and have enough resources to be able to get to those larger milestones.

Andy Halko 54:55
That’s great. And I’ll just tell you, I am a huge believer of the simplifying focus, yeah. So that’s why I asked the question is because I think that that is the right approach. But I think so many founders struggle with it day in and day out.

Ashley Etling 55:11
Absolutely. And I think what I’ve come to you just have to define what simplifying focuses for your company, because it is so different for every company. And that’s where we finally realize, okay, yes, simplifying focus. But let’s simplify and focus on these underlayers. Knowing that for us, all these companies, bringing them together actually provides a bigger solution.

Tony Zayas 55:36
Awesome. What’s the best way for people to you know, learn more, pay attention, see what’s going on with both each of you, Ashley Chantal, as well as LIMELOOP?

Ashley Etling 55:46
Yeah, always reach out to us on LinkedIn. You know, info @thelimeloop is a great way. And then you can always catch us on any of our social media channels, which is @thelimeloop. And then of course, the line loop.com. Awesome.

Andy Halko 56:03
So a final question that I like to ask everybody in both of you could answer is, if you went into the past, you know, let’s say 10 years and had coffee with yourself, what advice would you give?

Ashley Etling 56:19
I always say, you know, simplifying focus, which is a really interesting one that we’ve always gone to, but I think, you know, another one is just go with your gut instinct, as much as we have data to guide us and move forward. There’s some point I had a point of this yesterday, where we’re, you know, we’re running into the shifts of hardware, as Chantal was mentioning, and, you know, shortage of supplies cost going up. And she listened to my gut and developed the sensor technology a year and a half ago. But you never know, you never know where you are, you know, everything shifts and changes, resources were different. But, you know, I say, of course, just go with your gut instinct, we have so much data we can fall through. But with that comes a lot of perseverance, because when you make that decision, you know, you just you have to act on it and go forward.

Chantal Emmanuel 57:11
Yeah, I was gonna say my practical side would have been to pre order all the compressors before the sword is started. But at a higher level, I think we’re around just kind of a messaging around the fact that I’m on the right path. I think, especially as founders, you, you can question yourself a lot and the decisions you’re making, especially in the early days, when people don’t necessarily understand what you’re doing or if the way that you’re doing it is really the right way. And so just kind of reassuring my past self that like no, you’re not crazy. This is this is actually a really great to loosen, and we’ll find market fit and you’re just kind of keep doing what you’re doing.

Andy Halko 57:48
That’s great. Thank you both.

Tony Zayas 57:51
awesome. So we are pretty much out of time here. We want to say thank you so much, Chantal and Ashley for both of you for joining us. It’s been fantastic. We made it, we got through this. We’re all for here and streaming. Appreciate you bearing with us. Of course I probably cut out a little bit here at the end, right. But anyway, thank you. For viewers. Thank you guys for tuning in. We’ll be back again next week. And until then, take care everybody. Thank you

Chantal Emmanuel 58:22
take care thank you

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